The launch of GlaxoSmithKline’s weight loss drug Alli (orlistat) was widely

tipped to be the main event in 2007 for the over-the-counter medicines market, and initial signs are that the product will not disappoint.

A research note issued by Dresdner Kleinwort estimates that Alli has been

quickly capturing market share in the sector since its launch in the USA in

late June, citing as evidence the most recent results statement from weight loss company NutriSystem.

NutriSystem said late last week that its third-quarter revenue came in at

$188 million, well below analysts’ consensus forecasts of $207 million. “New customers fell 7% during the quarter as consumers have chosen to

take...Alli,” said Dresdner Kleinwort. NutriSystem, which sells prepared

meals and exercise equipment, has seen its market value slashed since Alli's launch and the share tumbled 34% when it unveiled the news on October 4.

GSK said that Alli, a low-dose variant of Roche’s prescription product

Xenical, had brought in £76 million ($155 million) in sales in the first

half of 2007, lending credence to some analysts’ suggestions that the

product could eventually bring in £500 million or more a year.

GSK said earlier this month that its application to market OTC orlistat in

Europe had been accepted by the European Medicines Agency.